JEFF SHATTUCK MUSIC

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• Preparing for take-off: The five steps to making it as a pro songwriter, without spending much money. (I think.) Step One.

As I prep my tunes for worldwide release (within the next two months, I promise!), there are five things I've determined need to done in order to maximize my chances for success in today's world.

Keep in mind, success for me is a humble thing. Ideally, I'd like to be able to recoup my recording costs, which total somewhere around $20,000, but I'm not sure, since I'm afraid to look. (Note: funds for my recording came from a bit of money I inherited awhile back. Yup, I'm a little spoiled and, save for the brain thing, not too much of a hard luck story.)

Also, because of my brain injury, my list does not mention gigging. Obviously, if you can get out their and play a lot, you should.

So, without further ado, here is Step One.

1. WRITE SONGS THAT COULD BE HIT SINGLES

If you're going to try to write songs that sell, you need to write songs that could sell. Simple, no? And yet, it is oh-so-hard to write a hit. If it were easy, everyone would do it, right? I mean, who wants to bust his hump crafting brilliant songs that no one ever hears? Not me.

So, what's a hit? For me, the best definition I've read so far lies between the covers of Eric Beall's new book, The Billboard Guide to Writing and Producing Songs That Sell. Granted, Mr. Beall frames his argument for what constitutes a hit within what radio will play, and we all know that radio might not be the best litmus test anymore, but I think radio is still a darn good place to start for defining a hit.

In short, a hit is under four minutes, uptempo, has a primary hook and a few other secondary hooks, and is memorable. Oh, and it can grab a listener in under ten seconds.

Now before you crap all over this definition, remember, there are exceptions to every rule. Every last damn one. BUT, certainly being able to meet this definition is not a bad thing. At least I don't think so, especially not for a writer aspiring to be a commercial songwriter, which would be me.

So, I plan to keep every song on my album under four minutes, hooky and memorable, and to keep the slower ones to a minimum. Is this a sad thing that I am so willing to be a slave to the market? Personally, I don't think so. For starters, I LIKE hits. Most of my favorite songs, in fact, pretty much fit Mr. Beall's definition, and I've never really been one to "work" to like something. Either it grabs me or it doesn't, sometimes on first listen, sometimes after years of exposure. Regardless, I am seeking to appeal to the market, so why fight it, especially now, before I've had any success whatsoever?

Stay tuned for Step Two.

And feel free to comment. I don't, for a second, believe that my ideas are the end-all-be-all.